Whether you’re a rider, groom, owner or spectator, every fan of eventing will chuckle with recognition at these six characters of the eventing world.
1. The pony rider
Pint-sized rider James won his first 3 BE100s on scores of under 20 — he can’t really understand what all the fuss is about. He’s not actually that interested in eventing, but he can’t be a jump jockey for another 3 years, so he might as well collect a pony medal or 2 while he waits for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
He’s oblivious to the fairer sex at present, but in time he’ll recognise the potential bonuses of being the only boy on the team. Meanwhile, he’s happy to while away the time between phases playing games on the latest Nintendo gadget — walking the showjumping course is for girls, right?
James doesn’t recognise a dandy brush, but his mother always turns his grey 14-hander out immaculately. Unfortunately, her influence on appearance doesn’t extend to the pony’s rider. The pony chef d’equipe has laid down that it’s either a hair cut or a hair net before the Europeans.
2. The course-designer
A former multi-medallist, Chris had to swim his horse through the water at the Mexico Olympics, so he has no truck with anyone complaining about water fences.
Today’s generation of riders are just so incredibly feeble. Everything was so much harder in his day.
Chris constantly talks about distances and he can’t understand why his wife says jumping efforts per 100m isn’t suitable dinner party conversation. He’s devoted to his measuring wheels and tape measures — there’s no way he’ll be swapping to an iPhone app any time soon.
Secretly, Chris longs to design the world’s first 5-star track, but health and safety and the increase of lower-level eventing means he’s mostly working at BE90.
But at a recent top event, he found a way to exact his revenge. Forced to take out the most exciting fence on course after rider protests, Chris snuck out in the middle of the night and reroped the track to make the time impossible to get. That’ll learn them.
3. The hard-working amateur
Harriet is constantly exhausted: she hasn’t been in bed after 4am for a decade. Her life is ruled by diaries, charts and lists — every minute of every day is planned out, from the pre-dawn rise to getting to bed as early as possible, but somehow it’s never before 11pm.
Harriet’s colleagues are quite accustomed to her steaming in at high speed, freshly showered, but with the odd bit of straw or her train reading — a dressage test sheet — trailing from her handbag.
Her mood in the office is entirely dependent on the previous weekend’s eventing result — choose the week after a double clear to ask her a favour and steer clear following a run-out. Her annual leave is split into days and half days for lessons and competitions, with a long-awaited week held in reserve for Blair CCI* — if she qualifies.
Occasionally, Harriet thinks she wouldn’t mind a boyfriend, but where would she find the time? Then she goes back to thinking about that new warm-up routine she’s been perfecting.
4. The top trainer
Jan is the trainer everyone wants. Most people are too scared to ring and ask. Actually, he’s available for £50 an hour.
He’s totally unflappable, speaks very slowly and never loses his temper. Run-outs, falls and other disasters at major championships register with a mere raised eyebrow.
Rumour has it one of the Arab nations tried to tempt Jan away before the last Olympics, but it turns out medals are thicker than oil (money).
Everyone wants to be noticed by Jan — riders warm-up in tiny circles around him, desperate to be drawn into his special circle. His approval is a fast track to funding, team spots and fame.
5. The new Kiwi on the block
Blake’s so laid-back that sports science specialists have found it impossible to raise his heart-beat above resting, even when he’s going across country. The monitor didn’t even register he was exercising.
Blake never pays more than $500 (that’s New Zealand dollars, so £260) for a horse. His favourites are wiry thoroughbreds off the track. And they all live out. He prefers partying to mucking out.
People keep telling him he must be so excited to get to Badminton, but he doesn’t see what all the fuss is about — he’s been to Adelaide, it’s just another 4-star, right?
Fantastically tanned — although he’s concerned he may have to fake it now he’s away from the sun — and with lots of floppy hair, Blake’s also impossibly skinny, so British girls think they’d like to “feed him up”. He never discourages them.
6. The old-stager
Alison’s friends would love her to give up eventing, and her husband is ashen as she sets off on yet another 4-star course, but she lives for that moment of thrill. Yet again she comes home, bruised perhaps, but unbowed.
Alison’s skin is like leather and mascara makes an annual appearance at the Badminton cocktail party. Apart from that, she gave up on make-up in 1973.
Alison has more metal in her body than a Porsche. Various eventing injuries have left her registering 10/10 on the lameness scale and mean she hasn’t trotted up her own horse for 20 years, but volunteers are few and far between.
Her conveyances tend to have the odd physical problem, too, and no one wants to be on Alison’s wrong side if they fail.